Lessons from My Wife about How to Be a Good Wife

I was only prepared to choose a college after I had already been to college. When I was in high school and deciding what college I wanted to attend, I thought I knew what I wanted — racquetball courts, high girl/guy ratio, frozen yogurt dispensers in the cafeteria, things like that.

It was only after I had been through the college experience that I figured out what was really important. And it wasn’t any of that stuff. It was more like: professors who actually teach and interact with their students instead of sending some poor English-as-a-second-language GA to do everything. Also parking.

In the same way, I thought I knew the qualities to look for in a prospective wife. And I have to say, I did better on that than on the college thing. But there were still a lot of things that I didn’t realize I should’ve been looking for until after the fact.

Luckily, my wife Rachel happens to have all of those qualities; both the ones I wanted and the ones I didn’t know I needed.

So as a service to all the wives and future wives out there, I want to let you in on some of the qualities that a man will figure out that he wants in a wife about four or five years after he marries her. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I am married to one.

— When your husband tries to high-five you, don’t leave him hanging. Guys aren’t going to stop being guys just because they get married. They’re going to continue to do things that guys instinctively do: yell at sports figures on TV for things they did 17 years ago, sometimes eat things before checking to see if they’re food, and high five people frequently for various reasons. It’s important to give your guy room to continue to be a guy.

No matter how long you are married, a lot of this stuff may never make sense to you. Nonetheless, whenever he does something you would never do, take a moment to ask yourself, “Is it dumb, or is it just because he’s a guy?” If it’s the former, join him in celebrating his guyness.

When you forgive, really forgive. You don’t have to make a big production about it, but you do have to mean it. On occasions when I apologize to my wife (and is anybody surprised to know that those occasions are more than occasional?), she usually just says, “That’s okay,” but she says it in such a way — so sweetly, without a hint of clench or reservation in her voice — that I know it really is okay. And then that occasion is forgotten and never mentioned again.

And I can’t overstate how important that last part is — the forgetting. If you’re using forgiveness as a tool for gaining future leverage over your significant other, your marriage will be a brutal, 40-year-long game of Monopoly, where nobody can win because one person owns Boardwalk and the other owns Park Place and you’re out of snacks and surrounded by screaming children and dirty laundry.

Trust him with the kids. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the “let him be a guy” point above. Your husband will probably have some different parenting techniques than you, simply because he’s male and you’re female. Don’t fear these differences; appreciate how his style and your style complement each other.

Every once in a while, tell your him you’re prepared to kill him. There are times — not often, but often enough to make an impression — when my wife and I are sitting together and watching TV or reading or something like that, and she will turn to me and say, out of the clear blue sky, “You know, if you ever try to leave me, I’ll kill you.” And then she’ll go back to doing whatever she was doing.

Chilling, yes. But also flattering. If my soft-spoken wife is that passionate about me, that makes me feel special. And frightened. But mostly special. Why is it that you very rarely hear a guy complain about being stalked by a girl? Because we kind of want girls to feel that way about us. A touch of wild-eyed possessiveness is appealing, in a dangerous sort of way.

So if there’s nowhere your husband could run where you wouldn’t hunt him down like a dog, go ahead and let him know. He’ll appreciate it, even though his appreciation may look a little like terror.

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